Retired couple join coal mine blockade, attach themselves together to machinery

A 72-year-old retired civil engineer and his wife have together halted construction work on the controversial Maules Creek coal mine development this morning, in the latest in ongoing protest action stopping work at the site.

The couple, David and Pamela Rothfield, have been married for 21 years, and have locked their arms together onto a pile driver this morning, and disabling it until they are removed. They have joined the growing blockade at the Leard Forest because of the contribution coal exports from Australia make to global climate change. 

Pamela Rothfield said, “Exporting coal from Australia is criminal in light of the overwhelming evidence of climate change, and it must be stopped. My husband and I are taking this action together this morning because our Governments have failed tackle our biggest contribution to climate change.” 

The proposed Maules Creek mine has been approved to extract up to 13 million tonnes of coal annually, which is estimated would contribute more than 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas pollution per year.

In recent research published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it is estimated that the continued destruction of forests and the burning of fossil fuels will drive a 4 degrees Celsius temperature rise by 2100, dramatically altering weather systems around the world, including here in Australia. 

David Rothfield said, “I feel a moral imperative to oppose this disgraceful development. Coal is driving climate change. I can’t watch climate change unfold, and do nothing, as the Australian Government seems prepared to.”

Leard Forest Alliance spokesperson Danielle Hellyer commented, “Along with the irreversible impacts that this mine will have on the warming of the planet, the Leard State Forest which is due for further clearing, contains the nationally listed and critically endangered Box-Gum Woodland. This type of ecosystem cannot simply be replaced, nor can the contributions this mine will have on global greenhouse gas emissions be reversed.”

UPDATE, 1PM: Pamela and David have been removed by police rescue.

PHOTOS: You can download high-res photos from here.

Work halted at Maules Creek mine site as father locks on to water pump

A group of protesters have blocked access to a water pump today in the latest of the unfolding protests at the site of Whitehaven coal’s controversial Maules Creek Mine.

At the centre of the event is 41 year old father, Ken Aberdeen, who has locked on to the pump which draws water directly from the Namoi river. The protesters aimed to highlight the “extraordinary amount of water” that will be used in the construction and operation of the proposed coal mine.

"The Namoi river has been temporarily drained in order to facilitate construction, but if Whitehaven’s unsustainable practices continue, the damage to the river could be irreparable," commented Liam Ellis, spokesperson for the Leard Forest Alliance.

"The local farming community will be devastated by the mine’s use of water and dropping of the water table, as well as the toxic blast fumes and coal dust. Once this damage is done, and the water is gone, it will be too late to repair that harm, so the time to fight for them is now. It is time for the corruption of the fossil fuel industry to end, and for communities and the environment to take front seat," said Mr. Aberdeen

"Today’s action highlights the diverse range of people brought together by their concerns over the destruction necessary to build this open-cut coal mine. We are laypeople and academics, young people and parents, and we will not stand by while the water upon which we depend is monopolised and consumed for the sake of the fossil fuel industry’s short-term profits. Our future, long-term employment, natural ecosystems and the farmland of the Liverpool plains are just too important. We will continue to put our bodies on the line until this project is stopped," added Mr. Ellis.

STATEMENT FROM KEN ABERDEEN ON WHY HE’S TAKING ACTION:

Today I’m taking a stand for the Leard State Forest, because it can’t stand up for itself. The Leard Forest is the last one tenth of a percent of the previously huge, but now critically endangered, white box forest ecosystem. The 30 plus endangered species that live here can’t just up and live in the surrounding cotton fields - they need this forest. The offset system that was used to justify cutting down over one half of the forest is corrupt at best – even if those offsets were comparable ecosystems, you would still be destroying that much endangered habitat – of course, it is now clear that those offsets are of very different ecosystems, and we can see the extent of Whitehaven’s greed.

The local farming community will be devastated by the mine’s use of water and dropping the water table, as well as the toxic blast fumes and coal dust. Once this system is destroyed, and the water is gone, it will be too late to get them back, so the time for fighting for them is now. It is time for the corruption of the fossil fuel industry to end, and for communities and the environment to take front seat.  

It is time for our government to stop the ridiculous subsidies to mining companies with their fabricated myths of jobs and the economy, and direct these toward developing renewables.

UPDATE, 1:40PM: Police rescue are on the scene.

UPDATE, 7PM: Ken was removed from his lock on earlier in the afternoon by police, and has now been released from Narrabri police station, and reunited with his 8 year old son, Tas.

PHOTOS: You can download high resolution photos from here.

Read more about why Bill is taking action against coal mining at Maules Creek.

Check out the great new Front Line Action On Coal website over here.

Bill Ryan, 92, arrested for taking action against coal at Maules Creek mine site, near Leard State Forest.

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"I’m now 92 years of age and I was a veteran of the second world war. I served in the Kokoda campaign in New Britain. I thought what we were fighting for there was proper democracy. But I’ve learned that was not the situation. The government doesn’t listen to the people, and this mine is a good example. There were over 300 submissions against the mine, and one submission for it. But it was approved. […]

Something is wrong. We’re faced with a catastrophe. I owe it to my grandchildren, and I owe it to all children. I was willing to put my life on the line in the second world war, so putting my body on the line here is a small inconvenience.”

Read Bill’s story in full on The Guardian.

Over 100 take on Maules Creek mine in historic action
Maules Creek, Monday 31st March 2014

In an unprecedented act, over 80 people have walked onto the controversial Maules Creek mine site today and immobilised machines, intending to stay in place for as long as possible. They are calling upon Environment Minister Greg Hunt to revoke federal approval for the project, in light of the second part of the alarming IPCC report released today which details oncoming ecological disaster for Australia.

Projected outcomes in the report include a 4°C warming by 2100, fuelled by continued destruction of forests and the burning of fossil fuels. Despite these findings, the Australian federal government has given the green light to Whitehaven Coal’s new Maules Creek mine, projected to emit 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year - the same as New Zealand’s entire energy sector.

Leard Forest Alliance spokesperson Helen War said, “Today’s historic action is a demonstration of the strength of ordinary civilians to stand up against the destructive coal industry that is wreaking havoc on the planet. The diversity of such a large gathering of people from all over Australia sends a clear message; that Whitehaven Coal has no social license to decimate the Leard Forest.” 

The Leard State Forest is home to more than 31 vulnerable and critically endangered species, including the Turquoise Parrot and Corben’s Long-eared bat, further threatened to extinction with the cumulative effects of changing climate and a lost habitat should the mine go ahead. 

Ms War added, “At this critical point in history, we must look at the bigger picture and take action against the short-sighted madness of coal mine projects fuelling climate change. We will not sit and idle while industries destroy our forests, pollute the air and poison the farming foodbowl. Such a groundswell of opposition against the Maules Creek mine marks the shift towards the new normal for coal projects in Australia.”

Over 40 people have been arrested in the area since December in ongoing protests against coal mining in the Leard State Forest.

Photo credit: Bottom two photos (of Bill Ryan, 92, and view of police cars and yellow mine trucks) by Margo Kingston.

UPDATE, 9:30AM: Police have blocked access on some public roads around the controversial Maules Creek coal project site at Leard State Forest. Police are on site making arrests, citing trespass.

UPDATE, 10:30AM: 23 people have been arrested so far this morning, defending Leard State Forest from coal mining. 

UPDATE, 11AM: Report of police using pain compliance and force to arrest people at site of protest against coal mining in Leard State Forest.

UPDATE, 11:30AM: Police rescue begin removing first of the people locked-on to mining machinery at Whitehaven Coal Maules Creek mine site.

UPDATE, MIDDAY: Some media coverage so far includes,

UPDATE, 2PM: Police are finishing arrests of people at the Maules Creek coal project site near Leard State Forest. 

UPDATE, 3:30PM: 60+ arrests have been made today at the action against Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal project near Leard Forest in north west NSW.

UPDATE, 6PM: 82 people were arrested today for taking action against Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal project.

VIDEO: 

PHOTOS: These photos are available for use by media, view and download high-res images here.

Breaking: Former DPP solicitor takes her own direct action
Sunday 30th March, 2014, Maules Creek

Earlier today, Sydney mother and former DPP solicitor, Marion Rose, chained herself to a water pump in order to slow the ongoing work of Whitehaven Coal Company at Maules Creek, next to the Leard State Forest.

As a former officer of the Court, Ms Rose took the action only after a great deal of study and reflection, saying:

“Now that I no longer work full-time I have had the time to read and think and to ask myself the same question most mums and grand-mothers ask themselves; are my kids and grandkids going to have a better life than me?”

“The heart breaking answer to that is, no. As a result of climate change and the terrible way we are consuming our environment, their lives will be harder and my little one year old grand-daughter’s life will be very much harder.”

“The police may charge me with interfering with mine equipment, but what kind of nation do we live in when mining equipment gets better protection than our kids and grand-kids – who is protecting them and their future,” concluded Ms Rose.

Tomorrow morning the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its Working Group Two report; those findings identified eight potential risks for Australia:

  • The possibility of widespread and permanent damage to coral reef systems, particularly the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo in Western Australia.
  • Some native species could be wiped out.
  • There is the chance of more frequent flooding causing damage to key infrastructure.
  • In some areas, unprecedented rising sea levels could inundate low-lying areas.
  • In other areas, bushfires could result in significant economic losses.
  • More frequent heatwaves and temperatures may lead to increased morbidity among the elderly.
  • Those same rising temperatures could put constraints on water resources.
  • Farmers could face significant drops in agriculture - especially in the Murray-Darling area.

“It is not possible to both take climate change seriously and continue to dig new coal mines in this country, they are now mutually exclusive activities” said Julie Macken, Leard Forest Alliance.”

UPDATE: Marion Rose was removed and arrest by police, but later released without charge.

GEO PHYSICIST CHAINS HIMSELF TO WHITEHAVEN COAL BLAST RIG

A 62 year old geo-physicist has locked himself to a drill rig in Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mining project in the another day of disruption at the site.

Glen Torr, from Canberra, is calling upon Greg Hunt to revoke approval and suspend all construction work pending the outcome of an ongoing criminal investigation regarding the company’s questionable offsets.

“My background means I understand the impacts of climate change. I am worried that my grand niece and nephews will suffer the full effects because of our current short-sightedness.

“This unique habitat needs to be treasured. When you see the sulphur-crested cockatoos, the beauty of the landscape, you wonder how Whitehaven could want to turn this irreplaceable habitat into a barren wasteland.”

The Leard State Forest is home to critically endangered box gum woodland, of which some 544 hectares would be destroyed for the new Maules Creek mine.  As part of federal approval of the project, Whitehaven Coal is required to provide comparative offset habitat.

Leard Forest Alliance spokesperson Helen War said, “Despite Whitehaven’s refusal to release the independent offset review, they are continuing to bulldoze and blast through endangered ecological communities. It is ridiculous that their offsets are under investigation, yet construction proceeds as if business as usual.

Today’s action evidences the swell of support from a broad spectrum of the community to protect the Leard Forest against this absurd new open pit coal mine. Why is Greg Hunt supporting a project that will fuel catastrophic climate change?”

Yesterday, protesters delayed construction by 11 hours at multiple sites. There have been more than 37 arrests in the Leard State Forest against coal mine expansion since December.

Work halted at two sites at Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek construction site

MAULES CREEK, NSW – Three protesters have locked onto equipment at two sites at Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek coal mine expansion project as part of the ongoing effort to halt the mine expansion that is expected to see half of the critically endangered Leard State Forest destroyed. 

One protester locked onto at a drill rig in an area where the Leard Forest has been cleared to do blasting in the forest and two additional protesters locked onto equipment at a second site where a bridge for the mine’s rail spur going over the Namoi River is under construction. 

“We are determined to halt construction of this site for as long as it takes to convince the Government that this coal mine expansion and the destruction of the Leard Forest should never have been allowed to go ahead,” said Phil Evans, spokesperson for the Leard Alliance. 

The continued protests at Maules Creek and surrounding mines have significantly delayed mine construction and brought to light the Federal Government’s Environmental Offsets approval process now under Senate Inquiry. 

“Whitehaven’s claims regarding the quality of the forest offsets it will provide in exchange for the Leard Forest have been found to be clearly inadequate and are now the subject of a criminal investigation,” Evans said. “We are calling on people from around the country to stand with us and protect this land before critical habitats such as the Leard are destroyed for short term profits that will tip our ever shrinking carbon budget.”

Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek project is the largest new coalmine under construction in Australia. Some 544 hectares of irreplaceable Critically Endangered Box Gum woodland are expected to be destroyed to make way for the mine, in addition to a major drop of 5 to 7 meters of the underground water table, which is expect to have an irrevocable effect on farming in the area. 

JOIN THE #LEARDBLOCKADE FRONTLINE

The campaign to protect the Leard State Forest and to stop Whitehaven Coal’s dirty Maules Creek coal mine is going from strength to strength as our numbers grow. Hundreds of people have now visited the forest and participated in a variety of activities to show opposition to this destructive project. 

Gather your friends and family and come on out to help us make this the biggest Act Up yet. There will be workshops and skill shares along with exciting events to be a part of.

The event will run from Friday 28 March - Tuesday 1 April, but we urge you to come early and stay longer if you can! There will be many roles to fill and every person, no matter how old or young counts.

GET INVOLVED:

For more details about camp, the event, and carpooling head on over to the Facebook event here.

RSVP: head on over here.

Questions: email us.

Faith leaders travelled to Maules Creek this week to support local protesters who are trying to stop a new mine. People who think religion should stay out of politics may be rattled by such a move, and certainly it should not be seen to bless anyone who breaks the law. But a Buddhist monk, a Catholic priest, Uniting Church ministers and other believers nevertheless joined their voices to the calls to stop expansion of mining in the area. …

Whitehaven’s plans to build the largest new coalmine in the country are fiercely opposed by residents in the Maules Creek area. They cite the potentially devastating impacts on their health, water, air quality, agriculture and biodiversity.

It is no great leap of the imagination to see why religious people are taking a stand.

— Thea Ormerod, President of Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald. Read full story here.

Thea was arrested earlier, alongside two others, while taking peaceful direct action at the Maules Creek coal mine construction site. 

Photos of faith leaders from the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change joining blockade against Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal mine at Leard State Forest by Tom Jefferson.